What are Brussels sprouts?
In Australia, Brussels sprouts tend to evoke the idea of the side dish typically enjoyed at an English Christmas. But you can also serve Brussels sprouts as Spanish-style tapas, coated in oil, garlic and crispy flecks of bacon. Steaming Brussels sprouts and adding garlic and caraway seeds will bring out their unique flavour.
Ancestors of the Brussels sprout were cultivated in ancient Rome and appeared in Belgium in the 13th century, which is where it is believed the vegetable acquired its name. Eventually, use of the vegetable spread through the rest of Northern Europe. These green, nutritious packages appeared in England and France in the 19th century. French migrants then introduced Brussels sprouts to the USA in the 1800s when they settled in Louisiana.
Mention Brussels sprouts and some people shudder. There is some disagreement about whether an inherited gene causes some people to taste bitterness in Brussels sprouts while others cannot. This poor, misunderstood vegetable has a bad reputation, when all is required is a little care with cooking. New varieties are milder in flavour and less bitter.
In Australia, Brussels sprouts are not sold by variety. Recently, baby Brussels sprouts were introduced to the market and these smaller-sized sprouts have a mild, sweet cabbage taste.
Why Brussels sprouts are good to eat
- Brussels sprouts are highly nutritious and contain vitamin E, folate, beta-carotene (a compound that the body converts to vitamin A) and vitamin K (important for forming and keeping bones strong).
- They are also a good source of dietary fibre.
- Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of minerals including copper, calcium, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus.
- Energy – 100 g of cooked Brussels sprouts supplies 150 kJ.
How are they grown and harvested?
Brussels sprouts are slow-growing plants that reach to between 100 and 140 cm. The sprouts look like small cabbages and form on the stem of the plant, at the base of each leaf. Removing the lower leaves of the plant encourages the growth of more sprouts.
You can harvest Brussels sprouts usually around 12 to 16 weeks after planting. The sprouts at the bottom of the plant mature first and are hand-picked to prevent damage.
Choosing Brussels sprouts
Good-sized sprouts are about 30 to 44 mm in diameter, bright green, with small, firm, compact heads. Choose sprouts with densely packed fresh-looking leaves. Smaller-sized Brussels sprouts are usually tastier than larger sprouts.
How to store and keep Brussels sprouts
Place Brussels sprouts in a plastic bag and store in the crisper section of your fridge. Brussels sprouts taste best if you use them within three days of buying.
How to use
- Don’t overcook Brussels sprouts, as this helps to decrease the chance of them tasting bitter.
- Simply boil Brussels sprouts and toss with butter – add chopped fresh herbs for a flavour kick.
- Toss hot, cooked Brussels sprouts in butter and sprinkle with crispy bacon (or pancetta).
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Better Health Channel
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